California’s enormous cache of underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and leader in high-tech industries.
Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply comes from groundwater.
Unlike those components of California’s surface water storage and delivery system, groundwater is out of sight underground and most people are not familiar with the facilities that provide groundwater – wells.
As California begins handing out $2.5 billion in state funds for several new water management projects, a shift is taking place in the ways officials are considering storing water. To contend with the likelihood of future extreme droughts, some of these new strategies rely on underground aquifers — an approach far removed from traditional dam-based water storage.
In increasingly dry conditions, cities from Australia and the Middle East to the American Southwest are pursuing groundwater, either as an integral piece of their future water supply or as an emergency stopgap measure. Los Angeles, looking long-term, aims to double the share of its water supply that comes from groundwater by 2040 and cut reliance on distant and shrinking sources like the Colorado River.
Monsoon storms in the desert Southwest are vital for recharging groundwater – but it now appears likely this recharge effect may be compromised by climate change. The major cities of the Southwest – Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Las Vegas – currently get most of their freshwater from the Colorado River or its tributaries. That river, however, is experiencing its 19th straight drought year, suggesting a new permanent dry state is gripping the giant watershed.
California farmers are laboring under a daunting edict: They must stop over-pumping groundwater from beneath their ranches. The saving grace is that state law gives them more than 20 years to do it. Now, however, a landmark court ruling could force many farmers to curb their groundwater consumption much sooner than that, landing like a bombshell in the contentious world of California water.
The Center for Biological Diversity’s suit in Kern County Superior Court asserts the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board voted April 5 to allow the dumping to continue indefinitely despite a staff report concluding the practice contaminates local groundwater and makes it unsuitable for agricultural and municipal use.
The next two days could help determine the fate of a proposal by Cadiz Inc. to pump groundwater in the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities. … The state Assembly approved the measure in a 45-20 vote Wednesday evening. But the bill could face an uphill battle in the Senate, and the legislative session ends Friday night.
A last-minute effort to require more state oversight of a company’s plan to pump water from underneath the Mojave Desert passed a key committee Tuesday, advancing in the final days of the legislative session. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Gov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor, all urged lawmakers to pass it.
Environmentalists are mounting a last-minute bid in the final week of the California legislative session to revive a stalled effort to require more review for a project to pump more groundwater from the Mojave Desert. The project by Cadiz Inc. to sell that water to urban Southern California has been the subject of a long-running political drama.
All along the 1,250 miles of border between Texas and Mexico, hidden under hundreds of feet of soil and rock, lie more than a dozen underground aquifers—areas of permeable earth that hold water—that crisscross the national boundaries. They might be the only sources of water the region will have left when the Rio Grande, hit by a one-two punch of climate change and a booming population, inevitably dries up.
When California passed its landmark groundwater law in 2014, there was a collective “it’s about time” across the West. But even though California may have been late in issuing a robust groundwater management law, it does set a high bar in at least one key area.
Land subsidence caused by groundwater pumping has been observed in the San Joaquin Valley for decades. Increased reliance on aquifers during the last decade resulted in subsidence rates in excess of a foot per year in some parts of the region.
While subsidence was minimal in 2017 due to one of the wettest years on record, any return to dry conditions would likely set the stage for subsidence to resume as the region relies more heavily on groundwater than surface water.
Alice Peters Auditorium
Fresno, CA 93740
Ending a five-year moratorium, the Trump administration Wednesday took a first step toward opening 1.6 million acres of California public land to fracking and conventional oil drilling, triggering alarm bells among environmentalists.
California’s new groundwater management law is not a sports car. It moves more like a wagon train. The rules do not require critically overdrafted aquifers to achieve “sustainability” until 2040. But 22 years from now, once they finally get there, lives will be transformed.
Bottled water giant Crystal Geyser has been charged by a grand jury with 16 counts of violating environmental and hazardous waste laws, after the jury viewed evidence that the company improperly disposed of toxic waste, a Department of Justice press release said.
The developer trying to build a massive hydroelectric power plant just outside Joshua Tree National Park failed to start construction by a key deadline this week — but a bill in Congress could give the company another six years to start work on the project.
Every day, millions of gallons of water flow through pipes across the Coachella Valley and pour out to nourish lawns, artificial lakes, farmlands and a total of 121 golf courses. This lush oasis in the desert owes its existence to groundwater pumped from the aquifer and an imported supply of water from the Colorado River.
Central California is slowly collapsing under its own weight as farmers suck out groundwater, emptying vast subterranean aquifers and disrupting one of the state’s key water-delivery networks. … Along 25 miles in Tulare County, the canal has sunk so far that its carrying capacity has been cut in half, according to the Sacramento Bee.
When Roberta Jaffe and her husband planted their small vineyard, one factor trumped all others: groundwater. Knowing that this isolated valley in south-central California relies on a depleted aquifer, the couple “dry farmed” their Condor’s Hope Ranch, using 5 percent or less of the water required by a conventional vineyard. … So Jaffe was alarmed when Harvard University’s endowment fund installed an 850-acre conventional vineyard just down the road in 2014 — and drilled 14 wells.
Completed during Harry Truman’s presidency, the Friant-Kern Canal has been a workhorse in California’s elaborate man-made water-delivery network. … Until now. … A proposition on the November ballot would raise billions of dollars for a variety of water projects around the state, including roughly $350 million to repair the Friant-Kern.
More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation, but its authors are not who you might expect. An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.
More than a decade in the making, an ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for years to find common ground to address a set of problems that have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually unusable for farming.
An Inland Empire water wholesaler is poised to get a boost in state funding for its effort to create a new local water supply that would provide ecological benefits in Northern California. The California Water Commission has tentatively approved nearly $207 million in Prop. 1 water bond funds for the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s Chino Basin Conjunctive Use Environmental Water Storage/Exchange Program.
California’s premier wine-growing region has been targeted for more regulation under the state’s new groundwater law, likely resulting in new fees and limits on water extraction for the industry. The state Department of Water Resources declared in May that 14 groundwater basins across the state are at risk of overdraft, and thus should be reprioritized under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA).
The bottom is falling out of America’s most productive farmland. Literally. Swaths of the San Joaquin Valley have sunk 28 feet — nearly three stories — since the 1920s, and some areas have dropped almost 3 feet in the past two years. Blame it on farmers’ relentless groundwater pumping.
In California’s agricultural heartland, the San Joaquin Valley, excessive pumping of groundwater has resulted in subsidence, damaging crucial infrastructure, including roads, bridges and water conveyance.
The many wells that nourish the farms of the Central Valley are not only pumping so much water from the ground that the land is sinking, they’re creating a dangerous vacuum where arsenic can slip in, new research shows. Scientists at Stanford University are warning if heavy groundwater pumping continues, water supplies for dozens of communities as well as billions of dollars of irrigated crops are at risk of contamination.
The town of Mammoth Lakes, in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada, is generally known for two things: epic skiing in winter, thanks to the very high elevation of its ski mountain; and volcanic activity, because the mountain is a simmering volcano. It’s normal to hike or ski around Mammoth and smell the sulfurous gases venting from gurgling magma deep under the mountain. That magma is also a rich source of geothermal power.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft. Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.
Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
Using measurements from Earth-observing satellites, NASA scientists have tracked changes in water supplies worldwide and they’ve found that in many places humans are dramatically altering the global water map. … Their findings in a new study reveal that of the 34 “hotspots” of water change in places from California to China, the trends in about two-thirds of those areas may be linked to climate change or human activities, such as excessive groundwater pumping in farming regions.
This spring in California several orchards around Solano and nearby counties sported a new look: lush carpets of mixed grasses growing as tall as 3ft beneath the trees’ bare branches. By summer the scene will change as farmers grow and harvest their nut crops, but the work of the grasses will continue unseen. Cover cropping, an agricultural technique as old as dirt, is taking root in California.
When a contaminated aquifer in Orange County made U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s list of top-priority sites for “immediate, intense action,” the local water district was quick to highlight the announcement. But questions of political favoritism are swirling over Pruitt’s decision in December to prioritize cleaning the Orange County North Basin groundwater pollution plume beneath Anaheim and Fullerton using the federal Superfund program.
The California Water Commission announced Friday that the Sites Reservoir project was eligible for $1 billion in Proposition 1 funds, up from $933 million the commission had said it might receive last month. … The commission also signaled more support for a small groundwater storage proposed by the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District.
Spurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery.
Spurred by drought and a major policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of recovery. Along the way, an army of experts has been enlisted to help characterize the extent of the problem and how the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 is implemented in a manner that reflects its original intent.
[Arcelia] Duarte is the owner of the Duarte Mobile Home Park near Thermal as well as one of its residents. As normal as her family’s home may appear to visitors, the park’s residents are faced with an issue most of California’s urban dwellers would struggle to fathom: Their water, which comes from a local well, is contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic and bacteria.
Battlefronts fell along party lines at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing yesterday about whether EPA should regulate pollutants that make it to surface water via groundwater. … The hearing was the first since EPA requested public comment on whether it should regulate such pollutants earlier this winter. The input is due by May 21.
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Clear water gushes from a hole in the ground, forming Bonanza Spring, the largest spring in the southeastern Mojave Desert. This rare oasis is at the center of the fight over a company’s plan to pump groundwater and sell it to California cities. Cadiz Inc. is proposing to pump an average of 16.3 billion gallons of water each year for 50 years.
Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board members voted Thursday to require an oil wastewater dump site operator in McKittrick suspected of polluting nearby groundwater to install a network of wells monitoring contamination. That falls short of environmentalists’ demands for the board to shutter the operation.
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
A company’s controversial plan to sell groundwater from the Mojave Desert ran into new opposition as a Southern California water district voted against the proposal. The board of the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District decided not to approve a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase water from the Cadiz Inc.’s proposed project.
We ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
California is well behind the curve on groundwater regulation. With a few exceptions, groundwater extraction has never been regulated in the state or even monitored with any precision. However, a 2014 law, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), at last will require groundwater basins in the state to reverse longstanding overdraft problems.
Major parts of San Francisco Bay’s shoreline are slowly sinking, a new scientific study has found, dramatically increasing the risk of billions of dollars of flooding in the coming decades as sea level rise continues due to climate change.
Followers of the ecologically dubious and largely pointless Cadiz water project in the Mojave Desert might have pricked up their ears last week at reports of a possible conflict of interest involving Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, and the investment firm Apollo Global Management.
In this episode of Deeply Talks, Tara Lohan, Water Deeply’s managing editor, speaks with Philip Bachand, a water engineer and founder of the environmental engineering firm, Bachand & Associates; Daniel Mountjoy, the director of resource stewardship at Sustainable Conservation; and Don Cameron, vice president and general manager of Terranova Ranch, about recharging groundwater and the crucial role that farms can play in this important effort.
On Feb. 26, the farmers will make a pivotal decision: whether or not to tax themselves about $14 million over 30 years to build a new delivery system. Thursday, the League of Women Voters, the North San Joaquin Water Conservation District and county officials will host a public meeting to explain all of this at 6 p.m. at Jackson Hall, on the Lodi Grape Festival grounds.
The Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, pumps 3 million to 5 million gallons of treated sewage a day down four wells on its property. Once underground, the water does not stay put. It seeps through porous lava rock and then flows into the Pacific Ocean, a half-mile to the southwest.
When the Water Replenishment District of Southern California located a 30-year supply trapped between the ocean and an aquifer, it was like a prospector finding gold. … A pilot project that began in 2002 proved new technology could turn brackish water into drinking water.
After extensive fieldwork, site observation and geologic mapping, a team of scientists hired by Cadiz Inc. concluded that a proposed water transfer project in a remote part of San Bernadino County desert won’t harm one of the largest wildlife water sources in the Mojave Desert.
Constellation Brands, maker of Modelo and Corona beers, finds itself in the crossfire of a bitter dispute. On one side are government officials who are vowing to see the project through; on the other, opponents determined to shut it down, saying the plant will use a large amount of water that should go to local farmers.
California’s sweeping effort to regulate groundwater extraction is still in its infancy. But many community groups are already concerned that too little is being done to involve low-income and disadvantaged residents in managing aquifers dominated by agriculture. The Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, adopted in 2014, was a Herculean achievement for California.
Garry Holiday grew up among the abandoned mines that dot the Navajo Nation’s red landscape, remnants of a time when uranium helped cement America’s status as a nuclear superpower and fueled its nuclear energy program. It left a toxic legacy. … Mining tainted the local groundwater.
In a quiet agricultural community in Fresno County things have been sinking for a long time. California’s Central Valley subsidence problem was discovered decades ago, right around El Nido. Now, this town is more famous for its elevation than its population because agriculture’s demand for water here has sent pumps ever deeper into the ground, causing the valley floor to sink by dozens of feet.
A 20-mile portion of one of the Valley’s largest waterways is sinking. It’s getting worse each month and while the water levels drop, the price tag rises. Earlier this year, the Friant Water Authority reported measurements that showed a nearly 3-foot drop in the Friant-Kern Canal’s elevation in some places.
Groundwater overdraft in the San Joaquin Valley – producer of half the state’s agricultural output – has averaged roughly 1.8 million acre-feet annually since the mid-1980s. Even before the start of the most recent drought in 2011, a few San Joaquin farmers recognized the dire need for sustainable water management and started individually pioneering a groundwater recharge practice that has since gained statewide traction.
The state’s water conservation districts don’t need the approval of property owners or voters to charge their customers fees to fund programs aimed at protecting groundwater, the California Supreme Court ruled on Monday.
Environmental groups are suing the Trump administration over its decision supporting a company’s plan to pump up to 16.3 billion gallons of groundwater each year from a Mojave Desert aquifer and build a pipeline to sell that water to Southern California cities.
Environmental activists sued Tuesday to halt a plan to pump water from beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to Southern California cities and counties. The lawsuit takes aim at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cadiz Inc. to build a 43-mile pipeline to transfer the water from its desert wells into the Colorado River Aqueduct so it can be sold to water districts.
Explore the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
Explore the Sacramento River and its tributaries through a scenic landscape as we learn about the issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour participants will get an on-site update of repair efforts on the Oroville Dam spillway.
This 3-day, 2-night excursion travels across the Sacramento Valley and follows the river north from Sacramento through Chico to Redding and Shasta Lake, where participants take a houseboat tour.
Participants of this tour snake along the San Joaquin River to learn firsthand about one of the nation’s largest and most expensive river restoration projects.
The San Joaquin River was the focus of one of the most contentious legal battles in California water history, ending in a 2006 settlement between the federal government, Friant Water Authority and a coalition of environmental groups.
For as long as agriculture has existed in the Central Valley, farmers have pumped water from the ground to sustain their livelihood and grow food consumed by much of the nation. This has caused the ground in certain places to sink, sometimes dramatically, eliminating valuable aquifer storage space that can never be restored. The damage by subsidence extends to the California Aqueduct, the 700-mile artificial river that conveys water from Northern California to the valley and beyond as the principal feature of the State Water Project.
The joint ground-mapping pilot project is designed to help Soquel Creek Water District and the County of Santa Cruz locate sandy soil areas to install collection basins and dry wells for easier passage for stormwater runoff to return to underground aquifers.
Fresh from gaining the long-sought federal approval for its massive desert water project, Scott Slater, Cadiz president and CEO, said it’s time for the project to “slow down” a bit. … The Cadiz project involves pumping billions of gallons of water annually from an underground aquifer in a remote part of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County.
During California’s five-year drought, the row of ponds in the desert north of the Palm Springs often lay empty and dry. But this year, the ponds have been filled to the brim with a record amount of water from the Colorado River. The Coachella Valley’s water utilities are using the influx of imported water to chip away at the long-term problem of groundwater overdraft.
The state of California is asserting landownership rights along a proposed pipeline’s path that would help carry groundwater from a remote part of the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County to Orange County and other communities.
A state commission is throwing a new hurdle in front of Cadiz Inc.’s plans to turn a remote desert valley into a lucrative water source for Southern California. In a Sept. 20 letter to Cadiz, the State Lands Commission informed the company that its proposed water pipeline crosses a strip of state-owned land and therefore requires a state lease.
If you want a new well in California, you might have to let your neighbors know how much water you plan to pump. That’s if it’s tapping a critically overused aquifer, and if a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk survives calls for a veto.
Now, a private company wants to use the pits for a $2-billion hydropower project. The plant, proponents say, would help boost renewable energy use in Southern California and lower greenhouse gas emissions. But park officials fear the hydropower project could draw down local groundwater levels and harm wildlife.
California survived its historic drought, in large part by using groundwater. It was a lifeline in the Central Valley, where it was the only source of water for many farmers. California regulators are charged with protecting that groundwater, but for years they failed to do so.
Stanislaus County will try a new groundwater treatment system to keep the former Geer Road landfill from polluting the Tuolumne River and nearby wells. The county will pay a Southern California contractor $1.74 million to build the groundwater extraction and treatment equipment at the old landfill on the north side of the Tuolumne River, about a mile northeast of Hughson.
Groundwater replenishment happens through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water conservation, recycled water, desalination and water transfers, according to DWR.
The battle over plans by a Los Angeles company to sell water pumped from aquifers underneath Mojave Desert conservation areas heated up again this week when state legislation was amended to require a new round of state reviews.
The SGMA [Sustainable Groundwater Management Act] is now kicking into gear as its first major deadline arrives: By June 30, counties and regional water managers must form “groundwater sustainability agencies,” or GSAs – the task forces that will eventually be responsible for developing their own sustainable groundwater use plans. Districts that fail or choose not to create a GSA will be subject to intervention by the State Water Resources Control Board.
A rush-hour delay caused by flooded tracks at the Powell Street Station in San Francisco — in the middle of summer — points up a BART issue that doesn’t get nearly the attention that overcrowded trains, finicky air-conditioning and the seemingly daily “equipment problems” command: a steady supply of subterranean water.
Vickie Mulas, a partner in her family’s Sonoma Valley dairy and vineyard operations, is no friend of regulations. … But Mulas, a member of a prominent local ranching family, relishes her role in California’s newest round of rule-making that will — in an unprecedented departure from past practice — put limits on how much water people can pump out of the ground.
A company’s vision to pump water from the Mojave Desert and sell it to thirsty Southern California cities had looked to some to be a long shot. … But a series of developments has invigorated backers of the project, which involves both federal and state jurisdictions.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ 4-year-old legal fight to assert rights to groundwater took a step forward on Wednesday as a federal judge agreed to let the lawsuit proceed while water agencies appeal an earlier ruling to the Supreme Court.
Five companies responsible for polluting the groundwater in the San Gabriel Valley have agreed to continue cleanup for another 10 years, sparing 400,000 residents higher water bills, a state agency announced Thursday.
California farmers have long been able to get permits to drill new wells in areas where groundwater levels are falling without publicly saying how much water they intend to pump. That would change under a bill approved this week by the California Senate.
The Trump administration has shown support for the project, which has been opposed by [U.S. Senator Dianne] Feinstein and several environmental groups that argue the water extraction would harm the fragile desert ecosystem.
The massive scale of California’s groundwater pumping is outlined in a study released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA and the University of Houston. The researchers conclude that California’s pending groundwater regulations remain woefully behind what is necessary to bring the state’s groundwater levels back into balance.
Land subsidence caused by groundwater pumping has been a problem for decades in the San Joaquin Valley, but an increased reliance on aquifers during the last decade has resulted in subsidence rates in excess of a foot per year in some parts of the region.
University Business Center
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they are needed.
The heavy rain and snow over the past six months in California could reverse the infamous decline of the state’s groundwater stores, but the relief may last only a season or two, according to a hydrologist with University of California, Davis, who says water agencies must find efficient ways to refill depleted aquifers.
The rain has largely stopped after one of the wettest winters in California. But as spring temperatures begin to climb and snow in the Sierra Nevada melts, the threat of flooding has communities across the Central Valley on edge. … The concerns are magnified in some areas by subsidence, a festering problem exacerbated by five years of drought in the Central Valley.
William Alley, director of science and technology at the National Groundwater Association, and Rosemarie Alley, a science writer, are the authors of High and Dry, a book that explores the world’s growing dependence on groundwater. Circle of Blue reporter Brett Walton spoke with the Alleys about the role of science in groundwater management and the knowledge that is necessary for sustaining what they call “the neglected child of the water world.”
A new nationwide study has unearthed the huge hidden potential of tapping into salty aquifers as a way to relieve the growing pressure on freshwater supplies across the United States. Digging into data from the country’s 60 major aquifers, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that the amount of brackish — or slightly salty — groundwater is more than 35 times the amount of fresh groundwater used in the United States each year.
Knee-high tufts of grass dot the streets of Hardwick, a rural neighborhood with a few dozen homes hemmed in by vineyards and walnut and almond orchards in California’s agriculture-rich San Joaquin Valley.
The water spread into every corner of the fields, beckoning wading ibises and egrets as it bathed long rows of sprouting grapevines. Several inches had covered the vineyard ground for a couple of months. But rather than draining it, Don Cameron was pouring more on.
In the end, it wasn’t very controversial. Nineteen years after San Joaquin County water interests overwhelmingly rejected a water-sharing plan with rival East Bay Municipal Utility District, a similar plan earned the unanimous approval of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
In a key ruling released Monday, a judge slammed the Oakdale Irrigation District for skirting state law in last year’s fallowing proposal. The district should have studied whether shipping river water elsewhere might harm local groundwater levels, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne said in a decision issued nearly 11 weeks after a one-day trial in January.
A long-running political struggle over a company’s plan to sell water from a Mojave Desert aquifer has taken a new turn with the Trump administration announcing a policy change that could facilitate the controversial water project.
It’s a race against time this spring as water roars out of Central California’s dams and rumbles its way to the lowest-lying areas of the western San Joaquin Valley, communities where land is collapsing and water channels are growing more unstable. State engineers are generating new maps to understand where water is stagnating in spots it once flowed freely, and to learn which communities are in the most danger of flooding.
The city of Vacaville is facing pressure to clean up its water supplies after an environmental group sued this week over the amount of chromium-6 in groundwater. … Vacaville is among several California cities that have been wrestling with the carcinogen since 2014, when the state adopted the nation’s first chromium-6 rules.
Mineral rights and royalty owners have filed a new lawsuit against Monterey County, challenging voter-approved Measure Z, which establishes some of the nation’s toughest restrictions on oil and gas operations in the state’s fourth-largest oil-producing county. … Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and wastewater injection into aquifers will still be prohibited during the stay.
A federal appeals court sided with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians on Tuesday in a landmark water case, upholding a ruling that the tribe has federally established rights to groundwater in the Coachella Valley.
San Francisco’s famously pure High Sierra water is about to be served with a twist. Starting next month, city water officials will begin adding local groundwater to the Yosemite supplies that have satiated the area’s thirst since the 1930s and made the clean, crisp water here the envy of the nation.
Unchecked groundwater use is colliding with seesawing weather patterns to produce a new act in California’s long-running tragedy of the commons. According to NASA and European Space Agency data released on February 8, parts of the California aqueduct on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, near Avenal, sank more than two feet between 2013 and 2016 as farmers pumped records amounts of groundwater during the state’s historic drought.
As storms hit California and the Sierra Nevada snowpack keeps building after years of punishing drought, water managers on the San Joaquin Valley floor are replenishing groundwater supplies while the getting is good.
Even as California struggles with surface flooding, the state is going dry underground, triggering sinking in parts of the great San Joaquin Valley, according to a new NASA report released by the Department of Water Resources.
The Monterey County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a letter to the California Department of Conservation expressing their concerns about a proposal to expand the boundaries of an aquifer where oil-production wastewater is being injected.
Until Donald Trump won the presidency, prospects looked bleak for Cadiz, a California company that has struggled for years to secure federal permits to transform Mojave Desert groundwater into liquid gold. With the change of administration, a new day is dawning.
For decades, California oil companies have disposed of wastewater by pumping it into aquifers that were supposed to be protected by federal law. California regulators mistakenly granted permits to do it, through a combination of poor record keeping, miscommunication and permitting errors.
While some farmers lament the release of thousands of acre-feet of water from Friant Dam, others are putting it to good use: recharging groundwater supplies. Last week, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began releasing water from Millerton Lake to make room for a deluge of storm runoff.
Amid greater scrutiny of oilfield contamination threats to California’s groundwater, state officials will hold a hearing Wednesday on a proposal to expand the aquifer area where a Livermore driller is permitted to dispose of oily wastewater.
Kern County has lost a key round in its decade-long battle with Southern California waste districts over the land application of treated human and industrial waste. Now the Board of Supervisors will have to decide whether to appeal the loss and continue the fight.
Cadiz Inc. has raised more than $9 million in a public stock offering held Thursday, said Andy Moore, president of B. Riley & Co., of Los Angeles, which underwrote the offering on the NASDAQ Global Market.
Three environmental and community-based groups have given their notice of intent to appeal a federal court’s ruling allowing a subsidiary of Nestlé to continue to remove millions of gallons of water annually from the San Bernardino National Forest.
Next year, a new California law will revolutionize how the state manages its groundwater. … There is an entirely different category of California groundwater, however, that is exempt from SGMA [Sustainable Groundwater Management Act]. These are the “adjudicated” groundwater basins, so-called because the rules for managing them has been decided in a court of law.
Dr. Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences, is the godfather of research on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. When he says it took John Sutter eight days to wind his way from San Francisco Bay through the Delta to find the narrow Sacramento River in 1839, you can bet that’s the truth. … Now, water agencies have joined together again to launch the River Arc Project.
Four months ago, the Coachella Valley Water District’s managers approved a plan they described as their costliest infrastructure project ever: the construction of small water treatment plants at nearly a third of the district’s 92 wells.
Lawyers for the Coachella Valley’s largest water districts and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians presented their arguments to a federal appeals court in a water rights case that could set a precedent for tribes across the country.
Manteca-area farmers voted this week to oppose a state proposal to permanently allow more water to remain in the Stanislaus River to protect fish. … The State Water Resources Control Board says river flows would increase from roughly 20 percent to perhaps 40 percent on the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers combined.
In a move that could have ramifications across the arid West, a government watchdog agency accused federal water regulators of wasting taxpayer funds when they gave Klamath Basin farmers more than $32 million to stop growing crops and to pump groundwater instead of drawing from lakes and rivers.
The Yuba County Water Agency board of directors on Tuesday unanimously voted to reject an initiative to redistribute revenue generated from groundwater substitution transfers — that is the sale of surface water which is then replaced locally by pumped water. … The initiative, known as the Groundwater Fairness Act, was submitted to the agency on Sept. 30.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will investigate groundwater contamination from industrial operations in Orange County’s north basin in a study that is expected to take up to two years and cost $4million, the agency announced Wednesday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today [Oct. 5] announced it has reached an agreement with the Orange County Water District to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study to address a large area of groundwater contamination in Northern Orange County known as the “North Basin.” The work required by the agreement is expected to take up to two years to complete and is estimated to cost up to $4 million.
Sometime in the next few months, lawyers for the state of Mississippi will stand before a U.S. Supreme Court-appointed legal expert, clear their throats, and argue that Tennessee, a neighbor, is stealing water. … It is the first time the Supreme Court has considered a lawsuit that involves the use and distribution of groundwater reserves that lie beneath multiple state boundaries.
The water that gurgles from a spring on the edge of this Northern California logging town is so pristine that for more than a century it has been piped directly to the wooden homes spread across hills and gullies.
Gov. Jerry Brown has signed Senate Bill 1262 into law, representing an initial attempt to incorporate groundwater management requirements under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act into two of California’s water supply planning laws. … SGMA was adopted in 2014 and, for the first time in California, establishes statewide requirements for establishing sustainable groundwater management in all basins designated by the California Department of Water Resources as medium- or high-priority.
Drive through rural Tulare County and you’ll hear it soon enough, a roar from one of the hundreds of agricultural pumps pulling water from beneath the soil to keep the nut and fruit orchards and vast fields of corn and alfalfa lush and green under the scorching San Joaquin Valley sun.
Sinkholes are caused by erosion of rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water underground.
Irrigation is the artificial supply of water to grow crops or plants. It optimizes agricultural production, obtained from either surface or groundwater, when the natural quantity and distribution of rain is insufficient. Different irrigation systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in practical use are often combined or serve as subcategories of one another.
The United States Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as containing less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids. However, 500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for municipal and commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is saline, 97.5 percent with only 2.5 percent fresh. Of this water, about 70 percent is confined in glaciers and permanent snow in the Arctic, meaning the remaining available water is accessible after treatment, as potable water.
Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly into other water bodies. They can also be considered the consequence of an overflowing aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the U.S. Bureau of Land Management from opening more than 1 million acres in Central California to oil drilling because the agency did not properly explore the potential dangers of fracking.
Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are often in remote locations on private property.
During our California Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of extensometers used by the California Department of Water Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater overdraft.
Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding from extreme weather events like El Niño.
As the western United States struggles with chronic water shortages and a changing climate, scientists are warning that if vast underground stores of fresh water that California and other states rely on are not carefully conserved, they too may soon run dry.
With a theme focusing on “Wave of Change: Breaking the Status Quo,” the Water Education Foundation’s 34th annual Executive Briefing will be held March 23 in Sacramento. The event will examine new approaches to water management, tools to extend supplies, plans to prepare for drought, and the intersection between politics and policy.
This premiere water conference will offer you the opportunity to hear from top policymakers and leading stakeholders on key water topics:
Hilton Sacramento Arden West
2200 Harvard Street
Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body. Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff (as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.
Under the $29-million expansion plan launched Monday, officials said the groundwater recharge facility will double in capacity by 2018, helping ween Angelenos off increasingly expensive and unreliable imported water.
A pollutant that has leached into California aquifers since farmers first began using synthetic fertilizer continues to accumulate and would not be removed from groundwater even if the state’s agriculture businesses abruptly quit using nitrogen-based materials to boost the productivity of their crops.
Regional groundwater leaders took some necessary next steps this week on the road to groundwater management and sustainability. In less than a year, local water leaders need to decide who will oversee state-mandated groundwater plans.
A coalition of environmental groups had worked for more than two years to persuade [Alameda] county leaders to ban fracking and other high intensity oil recovery practices to protect against pollution of local groundwater. The Board of Supervisors approved the ban 5-0.
As California regulators plan to set a legal limit on a cancer-causing chemical found in Valley water systems, clean water advocates are urging residents to attend coming public workshops on the issue.
This 2-day, 1-night tour travels from the Sacramento region to rural Capay Valley to view sites that explore groundwater, a key resource in California.
Examine groundwater monitoring stations where you will learn how this precious resource is measured, tracked and evaluated. Visit local farms and wineries that are mitigating groundwater needs through innovative irrigation techniques. Learn about groundwater contamination and ways to prevent it at a local dairy.
The more scientists study California’s declining supplies of groundwater, the more they’re emphasizing one basic point: We still don’t know nearly enough about the water in our aquifers, and we need a lot more data.
California took a needed and much overdue step in 2014 when it passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) to regulate groundwater. The law will take decades to implement, but the first steps of the process are already underway.
The Central Valley has been hit hard by the long-running drought. La Niña has failed to deliver the relief everyone was hoping for, but researchers at Stanford have discovered what could be good news for the region and for the state.
The Central Valley is home to California’s productive farming belt, but the region’s groundwater is so severely overdrafted in some places that the land has been sinking. … Now scientists from Stanford University have found that the region might actually have three times more groundwater than previous estimates, which are decades old.
A new Stanford study indicates California’s groundwater supply is three times greater than previous estimates and could represent a potential “water windfall,” its authors say. … However, water experts not involved in the Stanford study say the newly discovered supply may be too deep and too difficult to recover.
Our [Stanford University] new study published this week in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences concludes that the Central Valley has almost three times more fresh water underground than the state estimates. … Assembly Bill 1755, scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water, establishes a shared water database for surface and groundwater and water diversions.
Promised state funding for the increasingly costly Interlake Tunnel project in legislation backed by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, has been cut by 60 percent to $10 million, potentially risking long-term project financing.
In the past 30 years, perhaps no legislative effort to bolster the state’s water policy has received as much attention as the management of groundwater. This effort lead to the expansion of water district powers, the creation of special act districts with unique powers, the authorization of voluntary plans and finally culminated in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and its trailing legislation.
A ballot initiative created by a group of concerned citizens aims to alter groundwater management in Siskiyou County. Chapter 13 of the Siskiyou County Code governs the withdrawal and transport of groundwater, and section 3-13.301 does not allow the unpermitted transport of water from the county; however, “commercial water-bottling enterprises” are exempt from requiring such a permit.
With this year’s storms helping to refill the Sacramento region’s lakes and reservoirs, local water district officials and state regulators are diverting and percolating stormwater from Cache Creek into the Yolo County canal system to recharge groundwater supplies used by local farmers, city residents and UC Davis.
For anyone who doubts that we’re still in a drought, San Joaquin County’s groundwater “savings account” was even more depleted this spring than last, despite improved rainfall over the course of the winter.
By this time next year a lot of work needs to be done on a regional groundwater sustainability plan. … Every big task needs to start somewhere, and this week the public is being asked to join the conversation.
Chloride and nitrate concentrations are rising and arsenic levels are holding steady or falling. Those are two of the conclusions from a U.S. Geological Survey assessment of changes in the nation’s groundwater quality in the last two decades.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
When fully implemented, SGMA is expected to effectively administer groundwater pumping, though it remains to be seen if some of the damage done to aquifers is irreparable. Without SGMA, however, there is no hope for management.
Cadiz Inc. won a decisive courtroom victory Tuesday for its plans to transfer ancient groundwater in a remote part of San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert to parts of Orange County and other locations.
The ruling by a three-judge panel in Santa Ana moves urban districts a step closer to getting up to 75,000 acre feet of desert groundwater a year from the Cadiz and Fenner valleys in San Bernardino County — enough to supply about 150,000 homes.
The group Protect Monterey County delivered 16,108 signatures Wednesday to the Monterey County Elections Department in support of putting an initiative on the November ballot to ban fracking and dangerous oil production practices in the county.
The military is checking U.S. bases for potential groundwater contamination from a toxic firefighting foam, but most states so far show little inclination to examine civilian sites for the same threat.